By Rosaland Tyler
New Journal and Guide
(Compiled from press and news reports)
The Republican Party voter is old—and getting older.
Politico recently used census data to combine presidential election exit polls with mortality rates per age group. It calculated that, of the 61 million who voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, about 2.75 million will be dead by the 2016 election.
“President Barack Obama’s voters, of course, will have died too—about 2.3 million of the 66 million who voted for the president won’t make it to 2016 either,” Politico noted. “That leaves a big gap in between, a difference of roughly 453,000 in favor of the Democrats.”
Exit polls showed 5,488,091 voters aged 60 to 64 years old supported Romney in 2012. The mortality rate for that age group is 1,047.3 deaths per 100,000, which means that 57,475 of those voters died by the end of 2013.
Multiply that number by four, and you get 229,900 Romney voters aged 60-to-64 who will be deceased by Election Day 2016. Doing the same calculation across the range of demographic slices pulled from exit polls and census numbers allows one to calculate the total voter deaths.
“It’s a rough calculation, to be sure, and there are perhaps ways to move the numbers a few thousand this way or that, but by and large, this methodology at least establishes the rough scale of the problem for the Republicans—a problem measured in the mid-hundreds of thousands of lost voters by November 2016,” Politico noted. “To the best of my knowledge, no one has calculated or published better voter death data before.”
“I’ve never seen anyone doing any studies on how many dead people can’t vote,” said William Frey, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who specializes in demographic studies. “I’ve seen studies on how many dead people do vote. The old Daley Administration in Chicago was very good at that.”
Frey points out that, since Republicans are getting whiter and older, replacing the voters that leave this earth with young ones is essential for them to be competitive in presidential elections. But the key question is whether these election death rates will make any real difference.
There are so many other variables that dead voters aren’t necessarily going to be a decisive factor.
“The [GOP] does rely too much on older and white voters, and especially in rural areas, deaths from this group can be significant,” Frey says. “But millennials (born 1981 to 1997) now are larger in numbers than baby boomers ([born] 1946 to 1964), and how they vote will make the big difference. And the data says that if Republicans focus on economic issues and stay away from social ones like gay marriage, they can make serious inroads with millennials.”